Before work, sometimes, at Shattuck Cinemas but usually after, or while on break, any combination of Eljen, Brian, Nancy (the cute blonde who waitressed at the fifties style diner next door), some random person that someone else knew, and I would head out the back exit past crushed boxes, rows of the little brooms and dustpans with long handles that ushers use to clean the individual theaters, and down the stairs, to stand with the back door open, half in on the carpet filthy with the careless spittle from years of cigarettes and weed, and half out, on the back avenue, trees and streetlight orbs, one street off of Shattuck Ave., main drag, downtown Berkeley, California.
The first hit of good West Coast green always stills me. The streetlight flooding through the leaves of a tree turning two-dimensional in that well-known optical illusion of stoners. The image becomes archetypal; a memory to weep at as an old man decades from now. Brian's talent continually burst out of him, he now drawing, sitting on the stairs intent on a notebook, a post-bowl cigarette clenched in his mouth. Smoke was his instant inspiration, Sock and Flea's latest exploits, or something deeper, more meaningful. Eljen's mocha skin was beautiful. He had doe eyes and an innocence that even drugs and weekend playa-ing couldn't hide. Nancy I hardly knew, but she was young, and ignorantly exquisite, pony tail and beach bicycle. Her life was the unsung beginning of a Tom Waits tune drifting in from theater one through the wall to our left.
I wished even then that I could be there forever, basking in just the presence of these people, people I would never get to know as well as I hoped, people I'll probably never see again. But I looked out the back door at the trees and the street light, Brian on the stairs, Eljen and Nancy chatting. This is my golden image.